Improve Your Grades
There is no fairy godmother to magically turn your grades from Cs into As––you'll have to use your own effort and determination to do that! By working hard on your homework and following these handy study techniques and tips, you can improve your grades in no time and really turn around your school year.
Setting Up for Success
- Pay attention in class. The best thing you can do to improve your grades is focus and pay attention when the information is first presented to you. It's easy to lose focus when your teacher is going on and on about something that's not interesting, but you should not tune them out. Really listen to what they're saying and keep yourself engaged by asking questions and taking notes.
- Take notes. It might seem silly, but notes are actually a great way to help you improve your grades. Good notes are like a road map, when you go to study later on. They'll also show your teachers that you're serious about doing better in your classes. You don't have to write down everything your teacher says: just get down the basics. You know when you tell your parents about what happened to you during the day? That's how you should take notes. Just get the broad strokes, with the really important things written with greater detail.
- If you know something is confusing to you or seems really complex, write that down too! Even if you don't understand what your teacher is saying, you'll have a note to yourself that you need to look that up and get more information later.
- Write out your notes by hand, instead of on a computer. You will have an easier time remembering them this way.
- Ask questions when you don't understand. When you don't understand a concept or fact that your teachers talks about in lecture or that you encounter in your text books, don't be afraid to ask! Smart people don't just know everything instantly...they're curious enough to ask and find out when they don't know something.
- If you're nervous about asking in front of everyone else, you can also talk to your teacher outside of class time and ask about getting some extra help or explanation.
- You also shouldn't feel like your teacher would be angry about you not understanding. Teachers are happy when you're interested enough and invested enough to ask for help.
- If your teacher doesn't explain it in a way that you can understand or if you still feel uncomfortable, try going on the Internet to find a new explanation. You can often find YouTube videos covering common school concepts, and there are also forums and other websites that might deal with your question and explain it to you better.
- Go over your syllabus. Your teacher will probably give you a syllabus at the beginning of the year or semester. This is a written outline of all of the subjects you will study over the course of the year. You should go over this syllabus carefully and ask your teacher about anything on it that doesn't make sense. Paired with your notes, it's another great road map to your learning.
- Snack throughout the day. You might not realize it, but your problems concentrating might be because you're hungry! Try eating a small snack between classes, as well as a drink of water, in order to help your brain concentrate and have the best chance at absorbing the material.
- Your snack should be high in protein, which will give you the most energy. Try salami sticks or a handful of almonds or soy nuts.
- Try to find a way to work with your learning style. Everyone learns in different ways. Some people learn better when they're moving and using their body. Some people learn better with lots of pictures and visuals. Some people learn better when they can hear things like words and music. Think about what helps you remember things the most and then find ways to work that into how you learn your course material.
- For example, if you're an auditory learner (someone who learns better with sounds), ask your teacher if you can record lectures to listen to again later.
- If you don't know your learning style, you can take a test here or you can take any number of other online tests. You can also just analyze your own classroom experiences.
- If you're a visual learner, draw up some charts or webs which visually represent the information you need to learn and how the ideas are connected.
- Start studying immediately. Don't procrastinate! Waiting until the end of the quarter to study or, even worse, cramming the night before a test dooms you to poor grades. Your brain won't have enough time to really understand the material and log it away. Cramming leads you to remember things incorrectly or not at all. Basically, you should set aside time every night to go over material from the previous week and make sure you remember and understand everything.
- This means that when you study for a test, all you have to do is a quick refresher.
- Try to return to old material as much as possible, to help solidify the ideas in your mind.
- Go over your notes. Having good notes allows you to quickly go over the material and refresh your memory. If you didn't understand it the first time, your notes will give you a road map to finding the information that you need. Organize your notes by topic and go over them one topic at a time.
- Sometimes topics that are related are covered at very different points in the year. You might have to pair information you learned in September with information you learned in January, to get a full picture of it.
- Make a study guide. Sometimes your teacher may give you a study guide, but if not, you should make your own. A study guide breaks up the information that might be covered on the test and then lists out the most important facts and ideas. These are usually used for preparing for tests but they can also be used for keeping up with regular subjects as well. Make one for yourself each time you finish a unit and you will be prepared for anything your teacher could throw your way.
- Make study cards. Study cards are like little study guides, with a single concept or set of facts to one note card. You can then study these like flash cards, giving yourself 2-3 per day, covering material from previous weeks so that it stays fresh in your mind.
- Make a study wall. Have you ever seen a mind map? This is where someone writes down an idea on a card and places it on a wall, then connects other cards with similar ideas to the first. You can do this for studying too! Make charts, graphs, and written descriptions on pieces of paper or note cards, and then organize these by taping them to your wall. Study from your wall and when it becomes test time, you'll be able to think of where the information you need was on your wall and you'll have a much easier time remember it!
- Use memorization techniques. You'll probably have to do at least a little memorizing, for information that you can't remember easily. Different people memorize things better or worse using different techniques, so you'll probably have to do some experimenting. The most important thing is to remember to start the process early and spend a lot of time working on it, so that your brain has enough time and experience to really log it away. You can try these memorization techniques:
- Work only on small sections at a time. When working on memorizing lists (such as vocabulary words, place names, or groups of people), never work with more than five items at a time. Thoroughly memorize these five items before going on to the next five items. If you try to do all at once, you'll really struggle.
- Use mnemonics. Mnemonics are when you use acronyms or other keys in order to remember lists or concepts. For example, "Memory Needs Every Method Of Nurturing Its Capacity" is a mnemonic for how to spell mnemonic. Look up if there are any mnemonics for what you're studying, or make up your own!
- Use flash cards. Flash cards are useful for studying vocabulary words and other things, like dates. Write yourself a question or word on one side of a note card, and the answer or definition on the other.
- Take effective breaks. Your studying will be most effective if you break it up with mental rest periods. MIT recommends 50 minutes of study or work followed by 10 minutes of rest. They also recommend using this time to do things like eat and get a few minutes of exercise, since this will keep your mind sharp and productive.
- Make sure you have a good environment for study. You need to have a productive environment to study in. Your study environment should be free of distractions, so turn off those cell phones! You need to focus because each time you do get distracted, studies show, it takes 25 minutes to really get back on track.
- Sometimes, you might be able to find a quiet spot in a busy house if you think outside the box: try a basement or bathroom. If your home isn't good for studying, try a library or coffee shop.
- A lot of the time, we tell ourselves that we need certain things, like television and music, to help us focus when really we just want to justify a distraction. If you're one of the 30% of auditory learners, your learning will be more productive if you speak aloud the information, rather than trying to learn it while other noises are competing for your attention.
Acing Your Work
- Eat right and get enough sleep. Eating poorly can make it hard for your brain to work, because it won't have the tools it needs. The same goes for sleep. Scientists now think that when we sleep, our brains clean out toxins and other dangerous materials that keep us from being able to think clearly.
Get your 8 hours of sleep (or however much leaves your body feeling refreshed for the entire day) and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
- Skip out on junk food, sugar, and too much fat. You should eat fruits, vegetables (kale and spinach are good), and healthy protein sources like fish and nuts.
- Stay organized. Keep all of your work organized in folders and binders and keep a calendar of due dates. Staying organized like this will help keep you from forgetting assignments and tests. It will also help you schedule in study time and relaxation time, in a way that you can create a healthy balance.
- Staying organized extends to your work space as well. You should keep extras off of your desk that might cause distractions.
- Start with what you know. When you study, start by evaluating what you do know. You can set aside the information you do know for last minute review. Just make sure that you really are comfortable with the material and do set aside at least a little review time before going in for a test. Once you've set this aside, you can focus on conquering the information that you don't know or aren't comfortable with.
- Prepare for tests. When you know you have a test coming up, you'll need to really buckle down and devote extra time and focus to making sure you understand the material. Talk to your teacher for some extra, pointed advice on how to prepare for your test. You should at least ask them about the format that you can expect, as well as how it will be graded.
- Study for tests in the testing room. Visual learners especially will benefit from this technique. Your brain will associate the visuals in the room with the studying you did and the information you learned, making it easier to recall.
- Some studies have argued, however, that moving around to different rooms can help you remember information better. This technique, however, may cause too much distraction so use it carefully and if it doesn't seem to help, stop using it.
- Take a practice test. Practice tests can help you overcome test anxiety and help you understand what you're likely to encounter on the test. Get together with a group of friends and make several practice tests. You can even ask your teacher with help on this!
- Practice time management. Time management is crucial to making good marks on assignments and exams. A lot of the time we feel like we've spent more time on studying than we really have (because of distractions) or we'll feel like we shouldn't spend more time on studying because we have so little free time to begin with. When you cut out activities that really don't add anything to your life, like playing Candy Crush or checking Facebook, you'll find that you have way more time for both studying and relaxing! Really prioritize what's important and you'll be setting aside a good amount of time for study before you know it.
Getting Extra Help
- Ask your teacher for advice. If you're really working to turn your grades around but you're not making any headway, try talking to your teacher. Set up a meeting after school or at lunch and explain your problem to them: you're trying to improve your grades but studying more, taking notes, and other traditional methods aren't working. They might be better able to understand where you're struggling and help you find a way to overcome the problem.
- Ask for extra credit. If you're working hard on your coursework and you've shown your teacher that you've really changed your approach to learning, you should consider asking for extra credit or even a special, big side project. This can help make up for poor grades you got earlier and help you end with an A...even if you had a C!
- Make sure you explain to your teacher everything you've been working on, so that they know you're serious. A lot of teachers don't like extra credit, but they'll probably have sympathy if they see you really working to put yourself on a better path.
- Get a tutor. If you're really having a hard time, ask your teacher or your university's tutoring center if they can help you find a tutor. Getting a tutor isn't admitting defeat and it doesn't make you dumb: a tutor is a tool, like a code book or a translator. Everyone has something that they don't understand at some point and you're making the smart decision by using every weapon in your arsenal to defeat your lack of understanding.
- Study in groups. When you study with other people, you're pulling together all of your different pieces of intelligence and understanding to make one academic ace! You can compare notes and discuss the class to make sure that you all have the fullest, best understanding of the material. Just remember: you have to give a good as you get when working with others or no one will want to work with you.
- Give yourself context. Sometimes, if you take your learning into an immersive environment or do it in a way that gives you a way to really see what it is you're learning, this can help you learn the information a lot better. Find a way to make your subject real and give yourself context for what's happening and you'll find you connect with the material in a way that you haven't before.
- So, for example, going to a history museum and seeing actual items people used as you learn about the history. Another example would be doing science experiments instead of just reading about reactions in books.
- If you want to try some science experiments, wikiHow can help. Try making colored fire or making your own personal cloud!
- Find online tools. There are lots of online tools that can help explain the material you're trying to learn. You can just go looking for communities that are interested in the material you don't understand or you can go to websites that are specifically designed to help. Just remember: you're not just looking for the answer so you can copy it down. If you really want to improve your grades, what you really want is to find someone that can help you understand the material. Some good places to start include:
- Always try to participate in class, that way if you get something wrong your teacher can correct you and you probably won't make that mistake again.
- Understand concepts by reading, which will form a base, and practice questions thoroughly and memorize areas of common mistakes. Improve consistently on your accuracy to achieve higher grades.
- If your teacher reviews a quiz or test in class, look over it too, maybe you'll find a mistake you made once or twice. If they don't go over it in class, do it at home.
- With math, you should try to use a calculator after you've finished all of your problems to check if you're understanding most of your work.
- If it's math you are working on, try checking your answers in the back of the textbook. Do the work, then check your answers. If you see that you have an answer wrong, then go back and rework the problem until you get the right answer.
- It might be a good idea to record your notes and play them to yourself, then try writing everything you remembered. This will help you see how much more you need to learn and you'll also feel much better seeing how much you remember.
- Start a study group with your classmates.
- Get extra help. If your parents are too busy to help you and you're having trouble, don't make it harder for yourself. Teachers also often have extra help beginning of school and after. Go to them.
- If you are really stuck on a question, ask a friend that knows the subject well, or the teacher that is instructing the subject. They might be able to help you with a tough question you are stuck on.
- Always make time to reflect on what you have done; scan through your notes, close them, copy questions from your textbooks for yourself and answer them. Ask your teacher about some additional ways to study in your free time, such as at the library, a quiet room, or with a group of friends, and if he or she can show you what particular sections are best to study using note cards and memorization, or using notebook paper and essay projects. Teachers are always happy to help!
- Don't procrastinate, focus on your assignments.
- Whenever you don't think your question is correct or you don't get the objective, feel free to ask your teacher. They will understand not everything is going to be easy or everything is going to be understood; even if your question is "obvious" to some, it's okay as long as you are learning something.
- Stay super organized and keep on top of all of your schoolwork - this will show your teacher how mature you are.
- Practice studying with index cards.
- Proofread your work before submitting it.
- When studying for a test, chew a piece of gum. When you are taking a test, chew the same flavor gum. This will help improve your memory.
- Do your homework right after you get home.
- Make a time chart if you're terrible at time management.
- You can get good grades when you're ready. Nobody but you can make you get good grades in school.
- Do not take homework and classwork lightly. Even if you do well on tests, your homework grade can bring you down a lot. Depending on some classes you may keep getting good grades on your tests but still fail the class.
- Do not throw away things you need. It is best to talk to your teacher about what you should or should not keep.
- Do not cheat to get good grades. Cheating counts as lying and stealing. You'll be hurting yourself and others.
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